Being online exposes us to criminals and individuals with ill intent. Cyber safety is the practice of being safe online. It’s a complex set of ideas and practices that culminate to achieve a common goal: to protect users while browsing the internet through prevention, mitigation, and protection. While it’s always possible for a hacker to be persistent in their efforts, implementing security measures and making yourself a more difficult target can deter a large number of threat actors.
Whether at home or at work, cyber safety is crucial to operating on the internet. In the workplace, cyber safety can appear in many different forms, but it’s traditionally implemented into an organization via internet usage policies and training. Employers with cyber safety front of mind have policies that aim to protect employees and their data while online. These policies often consist of rules for applications and services installed onto company devices. Employers also supply periodic education to their employees informing them of best practices for staying safe online.
Practicing cyber safety at home can be more complicated. Without an employer to provide guidance or invest money into protection applications, it can be overwhelming to decide what the best approach may be. However, the most cost effective and arguably most effective method overall is to educate yourself on best practices. There are plenty of resources online. For data security, check out our blog post: 5 Tips to Secure Your Devices.
Cyber safety implementation is aimed to protect a target or target group against a threat. Each threat that may cause harm to these targets requires different forms of prevention, mitigation, and protection. Although these combined ideas and practices are specific to each threat type, they can be used frequently in cyber safety efforts against multiple threat types. Understanding the prevention, mitigation, and protection strategies for each will allow for security hardening and achieving your cyber safety goals.
Preventing a device from being infected with malware can be tricky. Malware is designed to spread from device to device to cover an attack surface to its fullest extent. Understanding how your devices are connected and what they are connected to is the key to preventing malware. Utilizing extra security on these devices should be a priority to keep them clean and prevent them from becoming infected in the first place.
Assuming that a system in any given network is already infected, the next step to practicing cyber safety would be mitigation. Mitigating malware can be tricky because it can have many different purposes and design philosophies. Some malware types, such as spyware, are designed to be invisible to the average user thus preventing its removal. Other malware, like ransomware, locks down a computer, making it hard to mitigate damage since it’s already been done. Regardless of the type, if you can identify that one machine on a network has been infected with malware, quarantining that device can prevent further spread, mitigating the potential damage to other systems on that network.
Finally, after mitigating the effects of malware on a given system, there are additional steps that can be taken to further protect against future threats. Education is one of the best protection techniques against any threat type, but specifically for malware. To keep a system secure, it’s essential to think before you click to download anything. Ensure all users understand this principle can be the difference between a clean versus infected system.
Many people assume fraud isn’t a cyber safety concern, but in today’s digital world, online fraud is increasingly prevalent as bad actors attempt to trick people out of money, property, or other valuable information. Prevention theory is simple in practice, however, there’s a lot of information that needs to be secure, and it’s not always in the target victim’s control. Fraud prevention is achieved by controlling sensitive information and the access it provides. While protecting the credentials of one account is easy, protecting up to 20 or even 50 accounts is much more difficult. The easiest method for the average internet user is to only provide websites and services with the information needed for them to function. Oversharing creates gaps in security that threat actors can take advantage of.
Mitigating fraud is unique due to its proactive nature. Fraud can spread to multiple accounts if gone undetected or if a victim was practicing password reuse. Password reuse opens a user’s attack surface and makes it easier for an attacker to move laterally within a system once access is gained. Using strong, unique passwords for every account is a great way to mitigate the damage fraud can do.
Implementing multifactor authentication (MFA) provides further protection against possible fraud. Simply put, MFA is the use of another system to verify and authenticate users. By taking this extra step, fraud can be prevented because MFA makes it much harder for an attacker to access an account. Although MFA isn’t fool proof, it provides advantages that are necessary for preventing fraud.
Similar to fraud, theft prevention is simple in theory but takes discipline in practice. The best way to prevent theft is to keep credentials secure and only use trusted payment methods. Using third party payment systems designed with security in mind is ideal, however, utilizing payment forums on trusted websites can also be an option. If a website seems suspicious and doesn’t use a third-party payment system, don’t submit financial information through the site. The site itself may have good intentions, but unsecure sensitive financial information may be subject to interception from attackers.
While preventing theft can be difficult, mitigating theft is primarily handled and monitored by financial institutions. One way that users can mitigate the effects of theft is to use credit cards when making online purchases. Credit card users can get notified by the algorithms financial institutions have in place to prevent fraud and prevent financial damage as (most) credit card companies assume liability. While not fool proof, credit cards add an extra step between your personal funds and the motives of an attacker.
Additional protection measures against theft all fall under education. Determining how you store your financial information digitally is a huge factor in your potential for exploitation. Make sure financial information is never stored in clear text to prevent an attacker from gaining this sensitive information in an easy way. Think before sending anyone financial account information. Never send this information via email or other potentially unsecure means of communication.
Cyber Safety Diligence
The cyber safety landscape is constantly changing. Techniques and practices often get replaced due to the innovation of the technology industry which directly effects the cybersecurity industry. These innovations provide more security features, widespread adoption of technology, and more exploits for threat actors to take advantage of. Education is the best way to ensure cyber safety, today and the future.
Managing workplace cybersecurity can be challenging. Creating a cyber safe environment alone isn’t always feasible, but NuHarbor is here to help. Our team delivers expert assistance and services implementation to increase organizational security. Contact NuHarbor today to ensure that your environment is cyber safe.